PITTSFIELD -- Janis Broderick, executive director of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, says the center for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse gets a shipment of 50 secure cell phones from the Verizon Wireless HopeLine project twice a year, but still can’t keep them in stock.
"The women are so glad to have them. They are so relieved," Broderick said.
For the past six years, the center and Berkshire District Attorney’s Office has partnered with the Verizon HopeLine project, community donors and media outlets to collect, refurbish and redistribute old cell phones to people affected by domestic violence.
Verizon officials recently met with members of the Elizabeth Freeman Center and the district attorney’s office in the Berkshire Crossing Verizon store. There, the center was presented with a check for $2,000, half to be used to support programs at the center, and the other half to be converted into gift cards that people in the Elizabeth Freeman victims shelter can use to shop for the holidays.
Nearly one in four women, one in seven men, and more than 3 million children are affected by domestic violence.
"In the beginning, HopeLine provided confidential voice mail boxes, and now it’s cell phones, to victims," said Mike Murphy, public relations manager for Verizon’s New England Region.
He said that the phones and their technology can be useful in times of emergency and when people need support services in a time of crisis. It can also provide victims a link to family members, friends and employers without being tracked by their abuser.
Nationally, more than 106,000 phones with more than 319 million minutes of free wireless service have been donated to domestic violence victims. Each phone comes pre-loaded with 3,000 minutes.
Murphy said recycling the cell phones also helps the environment.
Since HopeLine was launched in 2001, more than 210 tons of electronic waste and batteries were kept out of landfills.
Locally, Broderick said the presence of HopeLine collection boxes at stores and offices throughout the community help keep the issue of domestic violence in the public’s mind.
She said the Elizabeth Freeman Center also works with the community to provide violence prevention training for area youths, trains volunteers to answer a victims hotline, and has joined an international awareness campaign called One Billion Rising. The latter has garnered support from the likes of celebrity actress Anne Hathaway and the Dalai Lama.
"The problem is huge here in Berkshire County. We get about 3,500 calls from survivors, and at least one from every city and town, each year, and the numbers keep going up," Broderick said.
She said Pittsfield Police Department gets about 100 calls related to domestic violence a month.
But both she and Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless attributed the higher number of reports in part to a larger number of victims seeking help.
"Domestic violence is a social issue. We all play a role for good or for ill," Capeless said.
To learn more about the HopeLine project, visit: http://bit.ly/p5eg1b or contact the Elizabeth Freeman Center at 413-499-2425.
To learn about the international campaign, visit onebillionrising.org.